Real Deal Cornmeal

Back in September, when I visited Dickey Farms’ pumpkin patch, I remarked on some vibrant, colorful corncobs hanging in the storehouse. Little did I know that I would be buying the same corn five months later on a chilly Saturday morning – but this time, it’s in the form of cornmeal.

At Fayetteville’s Winter Farmers’ Market, David Dickey is selling his “Green” Cornmeal, which was harvested from his farm just south of Tontitown, hand-hung and dried in his storehouse, and processed locally at War Eagle Mill. The cornmeal is in a medium-coarse grind, and works perfectly for cornbread, stuffing, adding a crunch to cookies – or in my case, adding a delightful texture to buttermilk biscuits.

Decorative Corn

Sunday morning’s decadent pancake feast left me with breakfast on the brain. I started with my favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe, and added a few tweaks here and there. Not only would I incorporate some cornmeal into this otherwise traditional recipe, but other, more sophisticated flavors, like rosemary and goat cheese.

The dough is a simple quick bread recipe, using baking soda and baking powder as leavening agents. Warning, Food Nerd alert! A quick and over-simplified chemistry lesson: baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, which reacts with the moisture in acidic ingredients (like milk, buttermilk, yogurt, etc.) to create carbon dioxide bubbles, allowing your delicious baked goods to rise. Baking powder is sodium bicarbonate mixed with an acidic agent (usually cream of tartar) and cornstarch, a drying agent. Because baking powder already has the acidic agent in it, it’s activated by any moisture – like water or oil – to create those same beautiful carbon dioxide bubbles to perfectly puff your biscuits. And P.S., I made a C- in high school chemistry. Look at me now, Mr. Chitwood! Now, on with the show…

Rosemary & Goat Cheese

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of rosemary. This pungent, woody perennial often leaves me feeling like I’m chewing on a pine branch, both in texture and in flavor. I liken it to nice cologne – I prefer the smell, but not the taste. However, I will say that over the years, I’ve grown fond of a subtle rosemary flavor, like the one in these biscuits. I chopped the rosemary finely (OK, microscopically) and used just a small amount – which perfumes the biscuits rather than overpowers them.

The addition of tangy goat cheese infuses these biscuits with a rich, heady flavor (or as Hubby calls it, “yummy farm-y flavor”) and creamy texture. The cornmeal adds a satisfying crunch, and the butter gives these little biscuits a truly divine flakiness. As always, don’t be afraid to experiment with the flavors: substitute thyme for the rosemary, or stilton for the goat cheese. Add a sweet touch with some honey and diced figs. Add cumin and chipotles for a Mexican theme. Do what you like, it’s yours to play with. Enjoy!

Rosemary Cornmeal Biscuits

(makes 8)

1 1/3 c. flour
2/3 c. cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 heaping tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. butter
3 oz. goat cheese
1 tsp. rosemary, finely chopped
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg + 1 Tbs. water, for egg wash (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Ready for the Oven

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and rosemary. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and goat cheese until the mixture is moist and there are lumps of butter the size of small peas. Gently stir in the buttermilk until a thick dough forms.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and pat the dough into a square about 3/4” thick. Use a sharp knife or a biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits, until all the dough is used.

As an option, whisk together the egg and 1 Tbs. water to form an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, gently apply the egg wash to the top of each biscuit, and place a small sprig of rosemary on top, lightly pressing into the dough until it sticks. Sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt.

Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake for about 18 minutes, or until they are puffed and the tops are beginning to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Laura Hobbs is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.